There is a richness in the language and word craft of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan that continues to enchant audiences who not only read the book but venture out to see Barrie’s own adaptation of his work to stage. Peter Pan runs through Saturday, Sept. 2, at the Hazel Robinson Amphitheater.
Under the stars feels right for such a show, making Montford Park Players’ open-air summer location a well-suited venue. Of course, the first things that come to mind are questions of how the more elaborate effects will be rendered in an outdoor setting. How will the crocodile that plagues Captain Hook appear? How will the magical fairy Tinkerbell work? And there’s the big question of how Peter and the Darling children will fly. In this production, all of these issues are solved cleverly. The crocodile appears via puppetry elements thanks to the handiwork of Jim Julien. Tinkerbell is a bundle of blinking lights and wings at the end of a long pole. Flight is achieved with gimmicks in plain sight, including a seesaw that lifts actors into the air. Darren Marshall, who plays Hook’s right-hand man Smee, also lifts and carries the children at times.
Much of the production is about the audience seeing how the magic is made. The ensemble is a constant presence on stage, aiding in the effects as well as the narration of the word-heavy tale. In fact, the audience is almost as much a part of the show as the cast itself. Actors roam the audience. Pirates and Indians hide among theatergoers, incorporating them in the high jinks.
Director Jason Williams has an inventive vision. His long history with Montford Park Players lends itself to an intimate understanding of how to use the facility to its fullest. Williams also appears among the ensemble of actors as pirate Skylights, which enables him to be present onstage operating many of the effects himself.
Mars Mignon has the right youthful energy and swagger as Peter Pan, while veteran actor David Mycoff embodies Captain Hook with a loftiness and exasperation. Sarah Holt is perfect as Wendy, who is swept away by Peter, and becomes the “mother” to the Lost Boys. Her brothers John (Brendan Nickerson) and Michael (Aidan Short) are also superbly cast. Samantha Yoffee shines among the young cast, as do real-life siblings Karely and Emmy Frost.
Though we see little of them after the first half hour, Scott Voloshin and Sophie Marie Stanley provide elegance as Mr. and Mrs. Darling. Both are capable actors and refreshing additions to Montford’s stable.
The outdoor venue presents challenges, and some of the cast are hard to hear at times. This is frustrating, as the ensemble trade off on the heavy narration, and, from one actor to the next, the vocal levels rise and fall. With Williams in the company and handling so much of the technical needs onstage, one wonders if there was an attempt to bring everyone up to the same level.
In spite of the obstacles, you can’t help but admire the dedication of the Montford Park Players — all of which are rewarded with an eager and enthusiastic reception from the audience.
WHAT: Peter Pan
WHERE: Hazel Robinson Amphitheater, 92 Gay St., montfordparkplayers.org
WHEN: Through Saturday, Sept. 2. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, at 7:30 p.m. Free admission